Religion News Australia

December 4 – 18, 2022

Religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)



Students expelled after parents refuse to keep quiet on child sex abuse claims (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 7 – Several siblings have been expelled from a faith-based school in St Kilda because their parents refused to sign a memorandum of understanding that limited who they could talk to about the alleged sexual abuse of their children.

Houston Trial

Police knew of allegations against Hillsong founder Brian Houston’s father, court told (Brisbane Times)
Dec 5 – The number of people with knowledge of child sexual abuse committed in the 1970s by Pentecostal pastor Frank Houston, the father of Hillsong founder Brian Houston, was in the “tens of thousands” before Frank’s death in 2004, a Sydney court has been told.

Abuse victim ‘paid for silence’: court (The Australian)
Dec 5 – A man abused by Brian Houston’s father when he was seven has told a court he was paid $10k for his silence after signing a napkin at a McDonald’s.

Hillsong’s Brian Houston allegedly told victim who had been raped by his father ‘it’s your fault’ (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 5 – Hillsong church founder Pastor Brian Houston allegedly told a man who had been repeatedly raped as a child by Houston’s father “you know this is all your fault, you tempted my father,” Sydney’s Downing Centre local court heard on Monday.

Brian Houston’s father continued to preach after admitting to child sexual abuse, court hears (ABC News)
Dec 7 – Frank Houston continued preaching sermons for months after admitting he had sexually abused a seven-year-old boy, a Sydney court has heard.

Brian Houston was advised his father would be jailed if charged over child abuse, court told (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 7 – Hillsong founder Brian Houston told a meeting of Pentecostal church leaders in 1999 he had received legal advice that his father, then a high-profile pastor, would “surely be incarcerated” if his alleged child abuse was dealt with through the courts, a Sydney court has been told.

Inside church probe of paedophile preacher (The Australian)
Dec 7 – A pastor has told the court she did not disclose disgraced preacher Frank Houston’s sexual abuse of a child because she was sworn to secrecy by the victim’s family.

The trial of Hillsong founder Brian Houston (The Saturday Paper)
Dec 10 – As Brian Houston faces charges of concealing his father’s sexual abuse of a young boy, a witness claims the Hillsong founder told her he’d been advised Frank Houston ‘would surely be incarcerated for the crime’ if the case went to court.

Brian Houston comment led to father’s child abuse not being reported to police, court told (ABC News)
Dec 13 – A former Pentecostal church executive has told a Sydney court information about a child sexual abuse victim’s desire not to go to police was not independently verified before being acted upon.

Frank Houston admitted he sexually abused children to others in Pentecostal church, court hears (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 13 – Disgraced former pastor Frank Houston admitted he sexually abused children to other executives in Australia’s Pentecostal church network after his son raised allegations with him, a Sydney court has heard.

Frank Houston continued to lead sermons after being stripped of credentials for child sexual abuse (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 16 – Paedophile pastor Frank Houston continued leading church sermons until weeks before his death, despite being stripped of his credentials to minister after his son learned that he sexually abused children, a New South Wales court has heard.

‘One strike, you’re out’: Brian Houston confronted his father over child abuse, court told (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 17 – Former Hillsong leader Brian Houston has told a court he did not tell police about his father’s sexual abuse of a boy in the 1970s because the complainant urged him not to.


Unholy row leads to a legal schism (The Australian)
Dec 16 – Reportedly thanks to the law firm dumping the Catholic Church as a client after 60 years on its books, there has been a departure of legal minds from Corrs Chambers Westgarth.


Six private school boys expelled over violent hazing (The Australian)
Dec 7 – Six Sydney private school students have been expelled over claims from parents their Year 7 sons were beaten and degraded in hazing rituals.

Catholic Church

Rome fiddles while Nicaragua burns (The Australian)
Dec 7 – (Opinion: Mary Anastasia O’Grady) Pope Francis stands back while dictator Daniel Ortega persecutes the faith.

Pope signed resignation letter in 2013 in case of bad health (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 18 – Rome: Pope Francis revealed in a new interview published on Sunday that after he was elected in 2013 he signed a letter of resignation to be used if someday severe and permanent health problems made it impossible to carry out his duties.

Pope Francis to return Vatican Parthenon Marbles to Greece (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 18 – Pope Francis has announced he will return to Greece three fragments of the Parthenon Marbles that have been held in the Vatican for centuries.


Taliban official says girls in Afghanistan will be allowed to take high school graduation exams  (ABC News)
Dec 7 – The Taliban has announced it will allow girls in Afghanistan to take their high school graduation exams this week, despite it banning them from classrooms since their takeover last year.

Religious Violence

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 5 – Dubai: Protesters in Iran have called for a three-day strike this week, stepping up pressure on authorities after the public prosecutor said the morality police, whose detention of a young woman triggered months of protests, had been shut down.

Also: Iran Abolishes Morality Police, Considers Changing Hijab Laws, Official Says (The Australian)
Dec 5 – Move is aimed at trying to quiet protests that have taken place across the country, analysts say.

Zelensky’s holy war against enemy within (The Australian)
Dec 5 – A war has opened up in Ukraine’s churches and monasteries, which have for years been a proxy battlefield for the struggle against Russia.

Indonesia police station blast kills one, injures several in suspected suicide attack  (ABC News)
Dec 7 – A suspected Islamist militant, angered by Indonesia’s new criminal code, has killed one other person and left at least 10 people injured in a suicide bomb attack at a police station in the city of Bandung, police say.

ISIS claim responsibility for hotel bombing (The Australian)
Dec 13 – The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack Monday on a hotel in Afghanistan’s capital used by Chinese businessmen.

Bali bombmaker Umar Patek apologises to Australians for his role in 2002 attacks (ABC News)
Dec 14 – An Indonesian militant who was paroled last week after serving about half of his original 20-year prison sentence for making the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings has apologised to victims’ families.

Iranian government accused of ‘sham trials’ and ‘torture’ as protestors face executions (ABC News)
Dec 17 – Before Mohsen Shekari was hanged in a Tehran prison, he reportedly cried out, “janam fadaye Iran”, meaning, “I sacrifice my life for Iran”.


Sikhs: Khalistan vote push is ‘the last battle’ (The Australian)
Dec 7 – Tensions hit Melbourne’s Indian population as Sikh campaign for separatist state in India intensifies on local shores.

‘Almost as botched as Monkey Christ!’ Has the National Gallery ruined a Nativity masterpiece?
Dec 18 – (Opinion: Jonathan Jones) The National Gallery has ruined Christmas.


Alleged IS terrorist Neil Prakash charged with six offences (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 5 – Accused Islamic State terrorist Neil Prakash has refused to appear in a Melbourne court after being charged with multiple offences carrying a life sentence if proved.

Is Indonesia stumbling towards populist Islamism? (The Australian)
Dec 7 – (Opinion: Greg Sheridan ) The revision of its Criminal Code to include a range of Islamist and anti-democratic provisions is one of the most profoundly concerning developments since the overthrow of Suharto.


Forty years of anti-Semitism didn’t prepare me for Kanye West (Brisbane Times)
Dec 13 – (Opinion: Samantha Selinger-Morris) I’d always been scared to respond to anti-Semitism.


Leader of religious group accused of Elizabeth Struhs’ murder, committed to stand trial  (ABC News)
Dec 7 – The leader of a religious group charged with the murder of an eight-year-old girl this year has been ordered to stand trial over a separate incident that nearly killed her three years ago.

Jail for man who tried to recruit hit man in Bunnings car park to kill ex-wife’s preacher (ABC News)
Dec 13 – A man who tried to recruit an assassin to kill his ex-wife’s preacher on the mistaken belief that he was interfering in their marriage, but instead ended up hiring an undercover police officer, has been jailed.

Police killer Gareth Train warned officers to stay away in paranoid video trove (Brisbane Times)
Dec 17 – [An] online video is contained in a cache of clips first revealed by online news site Crikey and purportedly published by police killers Gareth and Stacey Train, and offers insight into the couple’s Christian extremist beliefs and the depths of their conspiracist sense of victimhood.

Also: US religious conspiracist linked to Queensland police killers Gareth and Stacey Train (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 18 – In the hours after Gareth Train and his wife, Stacey, murdered two police officers and wounded a third during a chilling, premeditated attack on their remote Queensland property this week, they posted a haunting video to YouTube.

Growing up in a cult: ‘We kept our pain silent’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 18 – From the end of the spanking line, I could see the paddle in Uncle Zephaniah’s hand.

The Christmas gift Santa Claus can’t keep from us (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 18 – (Opinion: Barney Zwartz) In an age when marketing and brands have never been so important, perhaps the most successful and influential is two millennia old: the Christian cross.